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Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group Afenifere, has revealed stunning details of how Easterners attacked the late Obafemi Awolowo, affectionately known as ‘Awo,’ while they were campaigning during the First Republic at Aba, Abia’s commercial nerve center.
Adebanjo, in an interview with Vanguard’s Saturday Interview, described how the Igbos were misled about the late Nigerian nationalist.
During his lifetime, Awolowo told him, “No, you must work with the Igbo because you cannot defeat these Fulani people alone.”
When asked if he still believes in a united Nigeria, the Yoruba elder statesman responded emphatically, “Well, maybe if people like you can pressure Buhari and those who are opposed to going back to federalism.”
“If we don’t go back to federalism, Nigeria is doomed. I have said it before. Restructure or break up Nigeria because nobody is staying under the slavery of the Fulani. That is clear. I have not hidden it. Chief Edwin Clark has said it. I am saying it. Many other well-meaning Nigerians are saying the same thing.
“Why is IPOB there? You are in a Nigeria where the North can have the presidency, the South-West can have the presidency, likewise the South-South, but the South-East cannot. Yet, we are one Nigeria and you want peace. You are deceiving yourself.
“That is the basis of my support for the South-East. When Chief Nnia Nwodo and others came, I told them all that the Easterners did to me and Awolowo, which is why some Yoruba say they don’t want Igbo? But Awolowo told me, “No, you must work with the Igbo because you cannot defeat these Fulani people alone.”
“Awolowo only stated that the Igbo are misled by Azikiwe. “They employ them against us.” But don’t let yourself be used against you because they can’t see.”
“In Aba, they stoned Chief Awolowo. Let me explain because you should be aware of many things. Put it down if you haven’t heard about it yet. We went there to campaign in the First Republic. You (the Vanguard reporter) were not born at the time. Chief Awolowo was stoned. The stone landed on his head. We had no idea it was the Awo cap that saved the impact. I hope you are paying attention because you frequently hear that these people (Yoruba) dislike the Igbo.
“Your (referring to Vanguard reporter) leaders are always talking like that. When we got home after the rally, Awolowo said, do you know these people stoned me, we said ah! We were afraid but he said, you have to work with them. You cannot defeat the Fulani alone.
“The same thing happened during the Biafra war. Your people misquoted him. They claimed that Awolowo said if the Igbo go, then the Yoruba will go. And then the Igbo left and Awolowo deserted them.
“Gowon didn’t want that war to be fought. He said let them (Igbo) go. Awolowo said, well if you want the Igbo to go, that was what led to the statement, if by any act of commission or omission, you allow the East to secede, the West will secede.
“During the war, Awolowo went to Ojukwu in the East against the wishes of the Federal Government, which said no, don’t go to the East.” No, he said, I’ll go. They saw the tape of what he discussed with Ojukwu after the war.
“Awolowo told Ojukwu, come back, and let us agree to split up.” You do not abandon this burden on me. We’re carrying these people’s burdens together, and you want to go? No! You have to return.
“What I’m saying is, put it down and let someone come in and criticize it.” Ojukwu stated that he had agreed. Ojukwu attacked the Mid-Western Region before Chief Awolowo returned to Lagos.”